The Politics of Coercion
I am disturbed. We need to rethink the Kashmir issue very seriously. We have problem in Kashmir and we have to recognize that. Ultimately, the question of doing something for the aspirations…….is a very important one to think about.
(Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, NDTV,4-8-2010)
Failed states, writes Noam Chomsky, have certain primary characteristics. One, they are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Second, they regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic and international law, and third, though they may have democratic forms, failed states suffer from a serious ‘democratic deficit’ that deprives their democratic institutions of real substance. To this we may add, the failed states exhibit high degree of arrogance habitual of defending the illegitimate and illegal actions of its government and institutions.
We will not repeat the sordid story of democratic deficit, intolerance of dissent, rigging of elections, rampant corruption and trampling of human rights in the post 1947 history of Kashmir as a huge mass of literature has been produced on the subject, we will only refer to the (mis)handling of on going mass protests to show the unwillingness of the state to protect its citizens and in the process rapidly moving towards being categorized as a failed state.
Right from Shopian incident (2009), the state used every possible means to defend what in other parts of India would have simply been non-defendable. Even the highest investigating agency was put into use to “produce” a report, which, though full of discrepancies and loopholes, gave a clean chit to the accused by ‘proving’ that the women had drowned in knee-deep water. The deaths that resulted as a result of brutal force used by security forces on the people protesting this inhuman act was simply brushed under carpet by branding the victims as paid miscreants. Scores of innocent civilians lost their lives and not a single security personal was punished for what was the cold blooded murder of civilians.
The present crisis, as many analysts believe, is actually the continuation of the unrest that followed the Shopian tragedy. What has really been unfortunate is the fact that throughout the present mass unrest both the state and the central governments have been coming out with the statements that are irresponsible and uncalled for as they only adds fuel to the fire. Instead of addressing the real problem and punishing the guilty, they are defending them and in the process, giving them the license to kill the common people. The Home Secretary, G.K.Pillai gave a clean chit to CRPF who, according to newspaper reports, gunned down 10 out of 15 people killed in the first two weeks of this now almost two months old agitation by stating that they observed utmost restraint while dealing with what he described as “unruly mob” declining to accept them as civilians. He clearly stated that CRPF is there to assist the police in maintaining the law and order and that it acts under the direction of and in coordination with the state government and the police, thereby squarely putting the blame on it. Unfortunately, by maintaining a discrete silence, the J&K police have tacitly taken the blame of killing the civilians upon themselves. New Delhi clinched the whole issue by described the crisis as a disturbance orchestrated by Lashkar-Tayyaba. They believed that LeT men had crossed over to the valley and were instrumental in organising these protests. Evidently, signifying the innocent civilian protesters as militants is a dangerous narrative as it encourages the men in uniform to go on a killing spree. This is what exactly happened. Within a week thirty civilians have been killed besides hundreds wounded. The recent statement by the Army chief describing AFSPA as a ‘holy book’ for Army clearly indicates that they want to remain immune to both domestic as well as international humanitarian law irrespective of the quantum of human rights violations committed by the ‘security forces’. Indeed, in the present situation when there is hardly any presence of militancy in Kashmir, AFSPA has no justification.
The most important issue involved in the present crisis, as was the case last year also, is the constant attempt by the state and central government to legitimise the illegitimate. The whole issue started with the killing of a 17 year old school going boy Tufail Ahmad Mattoo by a tear smoke shell fired by the security personal that hit him on his head causing his death. The government and the security agencies first tried to hush up the case labeling it as a case of mysterious death- always an option to evade public wrath. However, the post-mortem report clearly revealed that it was not so and instead indicated that it was a hit by tear smoke shell that led to Tufail’s death. Far from than apologising and punishing or, at least, promising to punish the culprits, the government and the police made every attempt to prove him a miscreant.
The public anger on this killing was but expected. However, instead of restraining themselves, the CRPF and police used full might to suppress the protests on the eve of the funeral procession of Tufail’s body killing yet another youth. Then onwards every funeral procession was targeted adding fuel to the fire. And the chain of killings continued unabated. In Anantnag the security forces, in fact, killed three youth inside their homes as public protestors, and it was only after strong public pressure that the government half-heartedly constituted a one-man enquiry commission. A simple act of booking the murderers in the initial phase of the present turmoil would have largely pre-empted the public anger. Since that was not done and the forces were given a free hand to quell the protests, the results are before us.
Killings result into bitter memories and proliferation of a Shaheed Mazars (Martyrs graveyards)—ever present monumental sources of inspiration for the youth. Imposing curfew and handing the valley over to the Para-Military Forces, Rapid-Action Force or to the Army for the maintenance of law and order has always proved a temporary measure. If one opts the policy of suppressing the discontent, it is surely fraught with serious consequences—violent reactions, even returning to gun politics. The policy of arresting the youth also needs to be revisited. Kashmir is a well-knit close community where family always means an extended family involving cousins and second cousins. When you arrest or kill a single person you are alienating one extended family. Already hundreds of youth have been arrested and booked. When you arrest one thousand youth, you are alienating one thousand extended families and bringing them on the roads. And that is enough to keep the pot boiling. You kill, they protest; you kill again and the protests grow fiercer. You arrest, they protest and the cycle goes on. And what about the youth that stand arrested? Would this teenage brigade be expected to remain calm once they are set free after a year or two? If the government thinks they would come out as obedient citizens, it would be a misleading generalization. It may happen but the possibility of some of them becoming hardcore believers of radical politics is very strong.
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